No teams in the Central California Conference dominated their league last winter like the Turlock and Pitman High varsity boys soccer squads did after they placed first and second, respectively.
Turlock was led by the best player in the CCC in Marcus Decouto (now graduated), while Pitman quietly boasted one of the toughest and hardest working squads, despite being undersized.
They both earned a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs with Pitman falling in the first round, while Turlock rolled their way into the semifinal before falling to Jesuit on the road, 2-0, back on Feb. 28.
Now, with a herd of returners on both sides, along some fresh faces, both squads are driven to pick up where they left off and it should provide the area with some excellent soccer.
“I know on paper sounds like we lost a lot of talent, which we kind of did and Marcus will be incredibly tough to replace,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “It's just kind of weird because we have come out and the guys’ attitude and mentality are that we will be even better, which I think we can.”
Pitman will be led by first year varsity head coach Brian Hofsteen.
Turlock finished the CCC season with a record of 7-3-2 while Pitman followed in second place with a 6-4-2 record.
The Pride, however, finished as the stingiest defense in the CCC, allowing just 10 goals all season. Second best were Golden Valley and Turlock, which allowed 16 apiece.
“I think the kids saw what we could do. It had been a few years since we made the playoffs and had a run like last season,” said Sperry. “I think it motivated the guys coming back and they are excited, we are excited, hopefully it's going to be a great year.”
The Pride had an overall record of 9-9-3 while, Turlock went 17-8-2 overall.
“I’ve been impressed with the senior leadership so far,” said Hofsteen. “We have a smaller class with five or six. Then we have these up and coming sophomores, four of them, and they are excelling out there.”
Pitman is looking to have a standout season with Daniel Galdamez being one of the focal points.
“We have four or five reserves right now, a lot of them played before and know each other, which is good for me, chemistry and so forth,” said Hofsteen. “The kids feel they can win the CCC, of course there will be some challenging teams… one of them is right across town here, but they are feeling confident and I am starting to see that. I think they feel they can win every game.”
Loaded with one of the deepest rosters coach Sperry has ever had, he is looking to have the luxury of having a wide array of players at his disposal.
“We have a lot of guys this year that are very good offensively,” said Sperry. “Being able to score goals and finishing has been some difficult things for us. We’ve always had a pretty good defense last few years, but this year we have a lot of offensive talent so we could score goals, we just have to figure out our back-line.
“I don't want to get overly excited, but I believe talent wise it is the deepest team we have ever had,” Sperry added. “There were some very difficult cuts this year. So yeah, we are really excited. Deeper, and we are going to be a different team this year.”
Turlock will open league on the road at East Union at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Pitman will take on Clovis North from the Pitman Pride Cup at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 1.